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Tour of Ireland: Armstrong debut heralds strong line up & tough route

Thus far, little is known about the 2009 Tour of Ireland, August 19-23, save for the fact that Lance Armstrong has been confirmed as taking part in the race. That will change shortly, with information coming soon on both the route and the teams which will participate.

"We have been very busy putting together what we believe to be a very exciting and challenging route," said Project Director Darach McQuaid this week. "Lance Armstrong's participation has prompted us to include some elements not seen in the 2007 and 2008 editions. We will be announcing the route in the coming weeks."

The past two editions of the race have featured several ProTour teams and big riders. Last year, Mark Cavendish travelled to the race just over a month after taking four stage wins in the Tour de France, and netted victory on the first three stages in the Tour of Ireland. His Columbia team-mate Marco Pinotti triumphed overall.

McQuaid said that another strong line-up is guaranteed. "Major world squads have been sending us their rosters, which we will reveal shortly," he said. "All I can say at this stage is the quality of the field will be world class, with some of the best teams in the world racing on Irish roads again."

The race will tie in with the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit, to be held in Dublin the day after the five day, 2.1-ranked event finishes.

This year's edition will be the third since the race was reintroduced in 2007. It was originally run from 1950 to 1984, renamed the Nissan Classic in 1985 until 1992. Public reaction has been solid for recent editions, and the improving fortunes of young Irish riders Daniel Martin (Garmin Slipstream), Nicolas Roche (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Philip Deignan (Cervélo TestTeam), plus Armstrong's participation, should add to the publicity around this year's race.

McQuaid said that previous sponsors are on board once again, and that the race welcomes more partnerships. "We are very happy to retain partner sponsors such as Failte Ireland, An Post, Fiat Auto Ireland and Vittel amongst others," he stated. "There are still significant partner opportunities available should a brand wish to get involved in what will be one of this summer's biggest sporting spectacles."

The race will once again enjoy large television audiences, something that is particularly important to Failte Ireland, the Irish Tourist Board. It will be carried on RTE, ITV in the UK and Versus in the US, as well as being shown on more networks worldwide.

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